Last night, a friend of mine called me on the phone, choking on her tears. Her voice trembled as she spoke, “Dina, I love your video about the 3 Cs for a happy relationship, but I need your advice on something else…what are your 3 Cs for dealing with infidelity?”
The words smacked me in the face. She and her husband had been happily married for 13 years (at least we all thought they were happy), when she discovered that he was having an affair. She confronted him and he confessed. Her entire life was shattered in a matter of seconds. Over the 55-minute international phone call, she cried and so did I.
What was my advice?
Every situation is unique, and hers certainly was. It was not the time to give her a list of tips and lessons—she was devastated and utterly disturbed. “Hang in there” were my words. My other words focused on how it was not her fault and how his infidelity was not a reflection on her, but on him. This was the most important thing I could say to her for now, how it wasn’t ‘her’ who did anything wrong; his actions were a reflection of the type of person HE was.
Victims of infidelity report that a spouse’s unfaithfulness was one of the most tragic and damaging experiences they have ever had. Infidelity can damage any relationship and leave strong and painful feelings of anger and guilt. Every relationship is unique with its own set of dynamics. Dealing with the distressing experience is a multi-phased and personal process.
As an instructional coach, professional development trainer and former teacher, I am always in favor of acronyms. So, I will summarize my advice with:
‘The 4 Rs of Dealing with Infidelity’
RECOVER: Allow yourself sometime to cry to express your feelings of hurt and anger. Ask your family members and close friends to use this time for consolation, not preaching. Do not make any decisions just yet; give yourself time to recover from the trauma.
REMIND yourself that it is NOT your fault; a spouse’s unfaithful acts should never be the fault of the other suffering spouse. When two people decide to be together as a couple, they agree to the sacred bond that ties their union together, which should be based on loyalty, commitment and mutual respect. Infidelity is the choice of the unfaithful partner and reflects the kind of person he or she is. You need to overcome your feelings of guilt and start holding your head up high. Remind yourself that you did not lose your life; you have reached a very difficult crossroad, and you will manage to move along. I know it is hard to remind yourself of this, but you must try.
RESOLVE: Do you want to forgive your partner, pick up the shattered pieces from your relationship and try again? Is your partner ready to end the affair and ask for forgiveness? Do you want to stay with your partner, or do you want to begin a new life and turn your back on what caused feelings of tremendous pain? Do you have children? Will they impact your decision? Figure out what you want—where does your ultimate happiness lie? Damage has happened and we cannot turn back the clock of time. Even though you will not be aware of it, but the pain will eventually lessen and heal—you need to give it time. Look ahead and decide where you want to move from here. This will probably be one of the most difficult decisions you could ever make. Be brave and wise. “I will survive” should be your motto. Gather all your strength in the world and believe that, yes, you will survive.
RESTART: Develop a plan for your new life—with or without your spouse. There might be certain changes for you to undergo—new house, new job, new friends, new activities, etc. Stick with the plan and look upon life as opening up a new doorway of positive opportunities that will lead you to a better life. There is no reason to look back anymore. Think of your “I will survive” motto.
To my friend: I hope the 4 Rs will help you, and remember that I will always be here to support you.
To all the readers: Please share your own thoughts and tips that you felt were helpful in dealing with and surviving infidelity. Your advice helps.
God bless you all. May we always be brave, strong and wise.